‘Malkia Strikers’ descend on camp
National women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, started their non-residential training yesterday with the squad ahead of full residential camp today as preparations for the 2020 Olympic qualifiers set for January 2 to10 in Cameroon.
Paul Bitok will be in charge of the team while Japheth Munala and Josp Barasa will assist him. Bitok had earlier expressed desire to leave the team if a long-term contract was not in the offing.
The tactician named a squad of 20 players, with most of those included being regulars in the team. However, in the absence of middle blocker Triza Atuka, Bitok has recalled to the team Joan Chelagat, a Kenya Prisons player who will fight for a place in the first team with other regular players.
Atuka’s injury, a blow to the national team, has left the technical bench with a tough choice on who will replace the ace.
Chelagat will fight for the position with regular Edith Wisa, fast-rising Gladys Ekaru from Pipeline, Directorate of Criminal Investigations’ (DCI) Carolyne Sirengo, Lorine Chebet and KCB’s Violet Makuto who can also play as a right attacker.
Chebet, a former KCB player who has since rejoined Kenya Prisons, is currently at the Kenya Prisons Staff Training School, Ruiru. Bitok has defended the exclusion of KCB youngster Belinda Barasa, who was impressive in her debut in the playoffs.
“There are steps a player has to go through before playing at high level. The player has a few things left to learn and the short time we have before the qualifiers is not enough to prepare her for a high level match like what we expect in Cameroon. She, alongside others, is a work in progress as we seek to ensure the future of the national team is in safe hands,” said Bitok.
He added: “We have about 20 days to prepare since the competition is just two days into the New Year. We have to hit the ground running. We are also looking to play one international friendly match before the championship.”
Next year in Tokyo, Kenya hope to join the rest of the world where their global sojourn in the sport began more than two decades ago. Kenya first took part in a global volleyball event in Tokyo in 1996.